New findings focus on taking aspirin to manage heart disease risk. What should you do now?

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Aspirin and other tablets.
Recent news on research into the role of low dose aspirin in reducing heart attack and stroke risk could leave you with questions about your medications.

Why is the media reporting on low dose aspirin and heart disease? 

Recent media stories have covered new research findings on the use of low dose aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke.  

The findings of this research make a clear distinction between the use of low dose aspirin for patients who: 

  • have already had a heart attack or stroke 
  • are taking this medication to prevent a first heart attack or stroke 

New research findings may lead to media stories that could leave you with questions about your medications and treatment. Speak with your doctor if you have questions about taking low dose aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke. 

What the studies say about aspirin dose and preventing heart disease 

For people who do not have heart disease 

The results of the latest scientific research add to existing evidence that shows taking aspirin is not recommended to prevent death from heart disease, heart attack, angina, stroke, or transient ischaemic attack (a “mini stroke”) in people who have never had a heart attack or a stroke. 

Regularly taking low dose aspirin is not usually recommended for people who have not already had a heart attack or stroke, or for people who do not have coronary heart disease (fatty deposits in the arteries supplying blood to the heart). However, there might be certain other medical conditions where your doctor may recommend you take low-dose aspirin.  

If you have not had a heart attack or stroke and if you do not have coronary heart disease, and you currently take low dose aspirin, continue to take your current medication. However, you may want to discuss this research and how it may affect your medicines with your doctor.  

For people who currently have heart disease 

Multiple studies have shown that for patients who have already had a heart attack or stroke, taking low dose aspirin can reduce the risk of death or another heart attack. The benefits of taking regular low dose aspirin when you have already had a heart attack or stroke far outweigh the risks.  

Aspirin is used to prevent heart attacks in people who have already had a heart attack, or those who have “coronary heart disease”. 

If you are already taking low dose aspirin to prevent heart attacks or to treat coronary heart disease, you should continue to take your medications. 

What is low dose aspirin and why do people take it? 

The term “low dose aspirin” refers to taking aspirin tablets at doses of 75-150mg daily. The dose is “low” when compared with other aspirin products available over the counter at your pharmacy; the strength of those tablets is 300mg-500mg.  

Due to the variation in the dose, low dose aspirin has different effects compared to the higher dose aspirin you may take when you have a headache (e.g. Disprin®).  

So, why do people take low dose aspirin? Aspirin is one “blood thinning” medication which can be used to prevent your blood from clotting; developing a clot could lead to a blockage in a blood vessel. These types of clots can cause a heart attack or a stroke.  

“Your doctor may recommend you take a small dose of aspirin every day. It can stop blood clots from forming in a narrow artery and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke,” Heart Foundation. 

The benefits and risks of taking low dose aspirin differ for people who have had a heart attack or stroke, and those who have not; that’s why it’s important to discuss your medications with your doctor, to find out what is best for you, based on your medical history. 

Know your risks

If you have not had a heart attack or stroke before, knowing your risks is the first step to preventing heart disease. Find out more.  

If you have had a heart attack, learn how to reduce your risk of having another one